With a storied career in service – both in politics and in the U.S. Army – and experience as a NASA payload specialist, newly-appointed administrator Bill Nelson is in a unique position to lead.
In his first month in the role, he is pushing what he says is one of the most ambitious and aggressive science budgets in agency history, making strides in exploration with missions both in space and on Earth.
The White House’s spending proposal to Congress included a request of more than $24.8 billion for NASA in the 2022 fiscal year, with a 9% funding increase to its science division.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Nelson said that the introduction of “highly-sophisticated instruments” like the three-dimensional climate modeling Earth Observatory System would “go beyond just weather” for the betterment of the planet.
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In addition, the former Florida senator touted advancements in commercial spaceflight, noting that the way NASA operates has “already changed” because of companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
“What we found is the commercial activity and low Earth orbit has been substantial and it has been very successful,” he said. “The delivery of cargo and crew where NASA gives a fixed price contract – no cost overruns – to a commercial company to deliver, in this case, cargo and/or crew to the International Space Station, has been extremely successful and safe, I might add.”
Now, the 78-year-old says, the question is regarding what the role is for commercial companies other than the relationship the organizations have “always had” with NASA: development, tech and research under a NASA spearheaded program.
Nelson pointed out that the highly-anticipated Artemis Program’s human lunar lander demonstration marked an important step in the evolution of the relationship between NASA and commercial companies like SpaceX.